Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Naomi Irion Found Dead— The Lead Suspect in Her Disappearance was an Accomplice to Murder in Mendocino County 25 Years Ago

In the early morning hours of March 12, 2022, 18-year-old Naomi Irion of Fernley, Nevada waited in the Walmart parking lot for her bus to work that morning. Surveillance footage of the parking lot would capture a man wearing a hoodie and mask approaching Irion’s vehicle. He would enter Irion’s vehicle via the driver’s door, cajole her to move into the passenger seat, commandeer the vehicle, drive out of the parking lot, and abduct Irion.

This would be the last time Naomi Irion would be seen alive.

In the days following Irion’s disappearance, the story would has emerge as the first nationally-followed crime of 2022.

Troy Driver [Mugshot from the Lyon’s County Sheriff’s Office]

On Friday, March 25, Lyon’s County Sheriff’s Office identified 41-year-old Troy Driver as the man that entered Irion’s car and drove out of the parking lot with her. Law enforcement would book him for felony kidnapping as a result of their investigation. 

Despite the identification of Irion’s purported kidnapper, there was no sign of where she had gone after pulling out of the Walmart parking lot. Search and rescue volunteers, citizen bands of searchers, and law enforcement combed Fernley and outlying areas far and wide to no avail.

That is, until the day before yesterday, March 29, 2022. 

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Compelled by a tip, investigators from the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and a Detective from the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office responded to a “remote area of Churchill County.”

In that remote area, a gravesite was located. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Investigative Services team located the body of a white, female adult that was subsequently taken to the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. 

Yesterday, March 30, 2022, those remains were identified as Naomi Irion, the 18-year-old woman the world had wondered where she had gone for the previous eighteen days.

Troy Driver, the man accused of kidnapping Irion, could very likely see a murder charge in the coming days. 

Mendocino County locals know that this is not the first time Troy Driver found himself a suspect in a murder. In late April 1997, Driver was 17-years-old and would take part in the brutal murder of 19-year-old Paul Rodriguez on a rural Willits Roadway. Driver would stuff Rodriguez’s body in the trunk of a vehicle, ditch his remains off State Route 128, and burn Rodriguez’s vehicle to get rid of the evidence. 

Earlier that month, Driver and accomplices would carry firearms into a Ukiah, Willits, and Rohnert Park convenience store and commit armed robbery, stealing cigarettes and cash. A parole officer would later ask Driver what motivated him to commit those robberies. He reportedly replied that “It was easier to rob someone than to work and earn the money.”

Driver would plead guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact. He also pled guilty to the three armed robberies charges. The plea agreement included a provision that Driver would serve fifteen years in state prison for his crimes.

If you would like to know more about Driver’s crimes in Mendocino County, read our in-depth exploration of the murder of Paul Rodriguez here.

25 years after helping murder Willits resident Paul Rodriguez, the devil has finally come to claim his due. Driver now stands at the center of the first major American crime story of 2022 as the primary suspect, last seen with an 18-year-old who was patiently waiting to commute to her day job when he abducted her. Her dead body has been found, and a murder charge most likely awaits.

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It must be stated that the kidnapping charges Troy Driver currently faces associated with the disappearance of Naomi Irion have not been proven in a court of law. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, Driver should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The following is the press Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and Lyon County Sheriff’s Office announcing the discovery of Irion’s remains:

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022 Investigators from the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office along with a Detective from the Lyon County Sheriff’s office responded to a remote part of Churchill County following a tip regarding the disappearance of Naomi Irion.  Their investigative actions led them to a possible gravesite, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Investigative Services team was contacted and responded to assist in processing the scene. 

The body of an adult Caucasian female was recovered from that gravesite, the body was transported to the Washoe County Medical Examiners Office for an autopsy and to confirm identification.  On March 30, 2022 the remains were confirmed as those of Naomi Irion, the family has been notified.

No further information can be released at this time as this is still an open and active investigation.

We would like to extend our sympathy and condolences to the Irion family and thank all the volunteers for their hard work in trying to find Naomi and bring closure to the family. The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work closely on these cases.

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  1. once again the courts and the government failed to protect a young woman. Prayers and peace for her family

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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